Wallopingly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009
A few weeks ago, you'll recall how I commemorated the Battle of Britain by explaining the crucial role that the Church of England played in defeating the Nazi menace. Today, I want to illustrate how the pen is mightier than the sword, by explaining the crucial role that words played in defeating the Nazi menace.
Saint John's gospel, one of the very best gospels, even says the Word is the Invisible Magic Friend and if that isn't a ringing endorsement of words then I don't know what is.
Hitler and Churchill both knew the power of words. As panzer tanks pushed their way through the Ardennes, they fired volley after volley of postcards containing the phrase "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." But the allies would have their revenge. As the tide of the war turned, bomber command mercilessly carpet bombed Hamburg with witty aphorisms by Oscar Wilde. Berlin was worn down by the pithy epithets of Somerset Maugham, and in perhaps the most shameful episode of the war, Noel Coward and C.S. Lewis were both unleashed against Dresden.
Meanwhile, the French underground secretly read copies of Proust's "À la recherche du temps perdu" in bistros throughout the country. Never one for the subtle approach, the Soviet Union dropped millions of single volume copies of War and Peace, which, falling from a height of several thousand feet, proved deadly.
So you see, in the battle to crush the monstrous tyranny of Nazism, it was the words wot won it.
Tuesday, 31 August, 2010, 08:09 AM - SinghRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Eric Pickles wants to reduce unneccessary street clutter.
Which brings me onto the subject of religion. Sometimes religions get all cluttered up by rituals, forms of dress, irrelevant ceremonies and all sorts of useless, pointless ceremonial. Indeed some people seem to think that's all there is to a religion, as if, when you strip it all away, there'd be nothing of any significance left.
You'll probably be very surprised to discover that a Sikh Guru had something to say about this. "We've got to get rid of all this religious clutter," said Guru Arjan Dev. "What we need is a Sikh holy book. I'm sure there's enough Sikh writings by now to fill one up. Pad it out with some Hindu and Muslim stuff if you have to, but only the nice bits."
Unfortunately, Guru Arjan created a book that was so holy, that Sikhs started inventing all sorts of rules about it.
If only we could strip away all this clutter and get back to the bare ethical minimum, just like Eric Pickles.
Are we a religious or a secular country? The two are of course mutually exclusive because "secular" means "atheist" and we all know how awful atheism is. As a test, let me ask you if your joy at the birth of David and Samantha Cameron's new baby daughter is religious joy or secular joy? Some may think that that's a totally meaningless question, but the two are clearly distinguishable from one another. People who are religiously joyful are just so much better than those who are secularly joyful.
The Mostly Irrelevant and Imminently Eminent Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, thinks the country is a lot less secular than it seems. "There's still an awful lot of faith about," he said. As we all know "secular" means "banning all faith so that nobody has any or is allowed to practise it any more". I just wish to emphasise this over and over again, faith = good, secular = BAD. All other TFTD presenters agree with me on this, so it must be true.
An official in the Roman Catholic Church told me that, from Rome, Britain looks like a very secular place. Brits very rarely seem to do what the Pope tells them to. Sometimes they even criticise what the Holy Father says - the cheek of it! Yes, definitely very secular looking and therefore BAD.
I mean, just look what England's got for an established Church? Far be it from me to have a laugh at another Christian denomination, but come on, the C of E is just a joke. It's worse than their football team.
It's a good job the Reichsführer will be coming personally to sort us all out in a few weeks time. He'll soon point out how secular and BAD we are and what we really need is for him to take charge. After all, look what a wonderful job he's done in charge of the Catholic Church?
A poet in Victorian England lamented the dreadful secularism of his age. Just think how awful it would be if no one had a religious faith amy more, i.e. we lived in a secular society. Remember, secular = BAD.
Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 08:45 AM - MarshallRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
Happy Bank Holiday weekend everybody! Yes, it's time to have a break, enjoy the Bank Holiday traffic jams and the traditional Bank Holiday weather. Time to put up the cassock and take some time off from my hectic schedule of Anglican Priesting.
Prior to 1834, British Banks observed 33 saints days and religious festivals. But then it was decided that the British worker might not actually be celebrating religion and might just be using the time off as an excuse to be lazy and not generate the profits that their industrial masters so richly deserved - so the number of holidays was reduced from 33 to 4.
Henry Youngman once remarked that he gave up any thought of becoming an atheist because they didn't have any holidays. Then there's the well known joke that Jesus was born on a Bank Holiday, died on a Bank Holiday and is therefore likely to return on a Bank Holiday - so keep a lookout this Monday.
On the more serious side though, has anyone ever pointed out that it was Judaism (a kind of not quite right Christianity) that invented holidays? It says so, right there in the Big Book of Magic Stuff Part 1. The Invisible Magic Friend is always telling people to have some time off work and spend a bit of time worshipping him instead. This usually involved sacrificing some flour, wine or animals that the priests would make good use of. We know this because the priests told us that the LORD said so.
If the LORD hadn't told us this it would just be work, work, work all the time and no one would ever have thought to have regular breaks. No one would have realised that a healthy work-life balance was important in life. So it's a jolly good job we were around.
Today's subject is: fraternity. We are all brothers, not just the Millibands but all of us. We see this in the high moral stance taken by the Pope against the French Roma expulsion.
"We are all brothers," he said morally, "except queers, they're an inherent moral evil and a greater threat to the planet than global warming. You boy, bring me my nice shiny red shoes and that lovely white cassock with the gold thread embroidery."
Yes that is the message of Christianity, all are equal, whatever race or gender. Of course women can't have magic powers like men can, so they can't be priests, or bishops or vote for who can become pope, but apart from that we're all totally equal. The early Christians shared all their goods and rejected personal possessions. Obviously we don't do that nowadays. People who do that are called communists and they're very bad. The last pope repeatedly warned us about their badness.
So in conclusion we are all brothers, even those who are sisters.
And no, I'm not going to mention the cover up of the priest who was in the IRA.
Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 08:41 AM - FraserRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's the Dark Side of theology. A side by which, in my younger and more foolish days, I was almost seduced. Like many naive young people, I was attracted to the idea of Christianity seeking to promote equality and eliminate poverty. Now that I've matured, am a Rev Dr Canon Chancellor at one the world's great cathedrals, regularly hobnobbing with the biggest nobs in the establishment, I clearly see the dangers of Liberation Theology. Funny how you get more right wing as you get older.
Did Liberation Theology influence Father James Chesney, a priest from a different version of Christianity than mine? No one knows but let's just proceed on the assumption that it did. At least one Catholic was taken in by this Marxist Theology, so it's quite possible they all were. The wicked deeds of Father Chesney were suitably punished by Cardinal William Conway, by the traditional sanction of hushing it all up and moving him to a different parish.
The founders of Liberation Theology would've been horrified by the idea of car bombs being used against innocent civilians. They were fighting against fascist dictatorships, so the Vatican soon put a stop to that.
I'm shaken by just how close I came to being a revolutionary communist firebrand, driven by a, wrong, Catholic theology. If I'd followed that path I might never have got to hobnob with anyone.
This just goes to show the awesome responsibility that lies in the hands of theologians. Such power must be wielded carefully.
Alarmingly Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009
33 miners, trapped for weeks half a mile down a mine in Chile, survived on a daily ration of a spoonful of tuna, a sip of milk and half a biscuit. Their story has caught the heart of their nation and of the world.
Now that a bore hole has reached them, they are able to send letters, receive food and look into a camera lens so that their families can see that they remain well. They have said how they maintained their morale by singing the Chilean national anthem, an anthem that sings of Chile's blue skies and wild flowers.
In the month's to come, as they remain trapped in a claustrophobic chamber deep underground, they will need faith and hope as well as food. Faith is a gift from the Invisible Magic Friend. We know this because the Big Book of Magic Stuff says so. The miners' faith in the skill and determination of the rescue workers shows what a really good thing faith is. Although I'm not going to mention them explicitly, this clearly implies that all other forms of faith are really good things too.
And while they have faith, we must have hope, that the miners will soon be freed and reunited with their loved ones once again.
The generosity of British contributors to Pakistan's relief fund is putting politicians around the world to shame.
This particular disaster reminds me of many other disasters that have happened in the past. Once again, these have been the fault of politicians drawing arbitrary lines on maps in order to stir up animosity against those on the other side of the line. Like the Mogul emperors, who wanted to draw a line around the whole of India, or the partition of India. Some people try to characterise these disasters as religious affairs, but that is a big bad lie. IT'S A LIE I tell you, A LIE! I know, I've been to enough interfaith conferences where people of completely different faiths have had a very nice buffet lunch together.
There was a case, just over 300 years ago, where a Sikh person helped a Muslim on the battlefield, which is exactly what you would expect from Sikh teaching. Sikhs also did some nice things during the war between India and Pakistan in 1971. It's possible that some Sikhs did nice things during the 1947 war and also during the 1965 war, but I don't have any information about them.
So, as you can see, when politicians don't interfere, people of differently faiths just naturally get along happily with one another.
T.S. Eliot said the world would end not with a bang but a whimper. Turns out he was right. Scientists have just discovered that the universe will expand forever. So ultimately the whole of the cosmos is pointless and futile and all your pathetic little lives are just worth nothing.
Unless you're a Christian that is. Those of you who aren't Christians and have managed to struggle out of bed to hear me this morning, are doubtless consumed with the meaningless of it all. You get up in the morning and think, oh no, not another day in this irrelevant existence. We Christians however, not in any way wishing to sound smug or arrogant, bounce out of bed in the morning, full of certainty about or specialness in creation. As a Rev Dr Dr, let me just assure you that our quite rational belief in the risen Lord and the bountifulness of His bigness, transforms our understanding of the world, giving our lives meaning and purpose and direction that all you lesser people of the wrong, or no, religion cannot possibly have.
And now, as a mark of the humility and uncertainty so characteristic of we Christians, a short quote from Paul Gascoigne, "I never make predictions and I never will."
Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 09:29 AM - Not TFTD
Oh come on. Look at the ruby slippers. It's obvious he's a Friend of Dorothy!